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by Heather Mongilio — July 27, 2015 at 12:30 pm 833 0

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Editor’s Note: Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

A million people around the world have been able to play pen and paper games on a virtual tabletop thanks in part to an Arlington man.

Richard Zayas co-founded Roll20.net, a site that provides a virtual platform to play pen and paper games, like Dungeons and Dragons, with his college roommates Nolan Jones and Riley Dutton.

Roll20 Screenshot (Courtesy of Roll20)The three friends used to play Dungeons and Dragons together in college, but stopped once they graduated and moved to different parts of the country. After talking about how they wish they could all play together, Dutton created a prototype of a virtual tabletop.

What started out as a way for the three founders to play Dungeons and Dragons together after college turned into a successful business. Roll20 reached 1 million users in July, according to Jones.

“We didn’t start thinking we’d run a small software company,” Zayas said.

After creating the prototype, the three launched a Kickstarter with the goal of getting $5,000 to create Roll20. The Kickstarter raised $39,000.

“So to raise that kind of money in that short of time was a shock,” Zayas said.

Roll20 is not a video game, instead it provides the virtual tabletop for players to build their own games on. It is functionally similar to a video chatroom. Players are required to provide their own content — including tokens for characters — and create their own game boards. Alternatively, some game board and pieces can be purchased from a marketplace.

“At the basic level, the interface is just a virtual table,” Zayas said.

Richard Zayas (Courtesy of Roll20)The site can be used for any type of pen and paper game, not just Dungeons and Dragons, Zayas said. Roll20 users can create or enter a game. The “game master” creates the game using his or her own content, such as character tokens. Users can also buy tokens and other assets from the Roll20 marketplace.

“If you like video games or ‘Game of Thrones,’ Dungeons and Dragons was the original game of the fantasy genre,” Zayas said. “And if you want to play it online, you can play it on Roll20 for free.”

The site is free to use, but it also offers a subscription service that comes with advanced like dynamic lighting, which gives the game a more realistic feel, Zayas said.

The subscription service is the site’s current revenue stream, though Jones, Zayas and Dutton may consider advertising on the site, Zayas said. So far, enough people are subscribing to the premium content to keep the site profitable.

“The model is definitely sustainable,” Zayas said.

Users from around the world are using Roll20 to host games. About 15 percent of users come from outside the U.S., Zayas said.

“People just find us,” he said. “It’s like wildfire.”

The idea of being able to play a game with people all over the world is reflected in the company’s set up. The three founders each live in different areas of the U.S.: Dutton in Kansas City, Kansas, Jones in Las Vegas and Zayas in Arlington. The founders only see each other once a year, Zayas said, and each has his own role in the company. Zayas is responsible for accounts and finances, while Jones does public relations and Dutton is the main developer.

“He [Dutton] would be the brains. I guess Nolan would be the mouth,” Zayas said. “I deal with all the finance, accounts, that sort of stuff.”

While the company is successful and growing, it has only gotten to where it is today through hard work, long hours and tough lessons learned.

“It is definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” Zayas said. “Easily.”

by Heather Mongilio — July 20, 2015 at 11:05 am 0

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Editor’s Note: Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

mProve office

A Rosslyn company may have the answer for keeping research participants active in a pharmaceutical study, and it’s all through mobile technology.

mProve Health, a mobile technology-based company, has created mobile platforms that allow drug researchers to better communicate with subjects. Researchers are responding well to the new technology, mProve founder Jeff Lee said.

“We’re like the shiny new toy of the research market,” he said.

The company designed a platform that uses texts, automated phone calls and a mobile app to send reminders, instructions and messages of encouragement to participants in hopes that it will keep study retention and compliance rates high.

Study participants can also use the mobile app to log diary entries if that is part of the clinical trial.

Other platforms help research companies recruit people for drug trials, increase patient engagement by allowing participants to customize the app to best meet their lifestyles and allow participants to take research surveys that are part of the trial.

By using the mProve technology, drug research companies prevent about 50 people in a 1,000-people study from dropping out, Lee said. Drug companies spend a lot of money on each person in the study, especially those that drop out or fail to follow the instructions, so any preventive measures can save the company time and money.

The pharmaceutical industry is under pressure develop new drugs right now, Lee said, and having this technology can help companies research new drugs more efficiently.

“This is a scenario where the work we do is helping get access to better therapies,” Lee said.

mProve office

mProve technology is currently being used by many of the biggest drug companies, including Pfizer, in the U.S. and more than 50 countries around the world, according to Lee.

Lee first came up with the idea behind mProve five years ago while talking with a friend about improvements research studies could use, he said. From there the company has grown fast.

“It’s a growth-oriented business,” Lee said. “Mobile is a hot topic.”

A typical day of work for mProve employees includes helping a client’s study to communicate with participants, developing new programs for the mProve software and helping to train researchers with the software, he said.

mProve looks for its employees from local universities in the D.C. area, but it’s also hiring people with three to seven years of experience now. All jobs can be found on the company’s website. With so many employees coming from D.C. schools, location was important for the company, he said.

Lee originally started the company in Alexandria but later moved to Arlington. The company now has office space in the UberOffices at 1400 Key Boulevard in Rosslyn.

Arlington’s skilled workforce, transit infrastructure and proximity to an airport helps the company, Lee said. The location also helps the company sell its product.

“Arlington is a nice place [for our business] because one, you find people who are interested in global health, and two, because you have to travel a lot,” he said. “Arlington is kind of a perfect home where everyone is happy.”

by Heather Mongilio — July 13, 2015 at 1:15 pm 671 0

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Editor’s Note: Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

Brazen headquarters

An Arlington company may have the solution for scheduling meetings in different states or attracting more people to its workforce.

Brazen, located off of Wilson Boulevard by the Courthouse Metro, provides a digital real-time chat platform for companies and universities to host meetings or open houses.

Through the software, companies and universities can reach people — job prospects, college applicants, customers, etc. — around the country and the world, said Brazen founder Ryan Healy.

“Broadly speaking, we help companies create better engagement through our chat platforms,” Healy said.

By providing the online open houses and meetings, Brazen helps connect a “passive” workforce with employers. The company has found that some people will not attend an in-person job open house but will join one online.

“It’s a great way to attract top talent to come work for your team,” Healy said.

The company, which last month announced that it had raised $4.7 million in venture funding, works with clients both in and outside of the United States. And with clients all around the world, the company has to use a chat platform to connect with its clients, said CEO Ed Barrientos.

“It is ironic because our product is designed to bridge those gaps,” Barrientos said. “We drink our own Kool Aid.”

Brian Healy and Ed Barrientos

But using technology to schedule virtual meetings has its benefits, including saving on travel costs. And having more technological meetings and less in person seems to be a trend most companies are moving toward, Healy said.

“We don’t see it replacing face-to-face, physical contact, but it fills in the gaps,” Barrientos said.

Although the company uses its own chat platform to conduct business online, Barrientos and Healy still needed to find a physical location that would allow them to grow the company and hire more employees.

Healy and Barrientos started the company in Wisconsin and then moved to Tyson’s before coming to Arlington, they said, adding that Arlington provided the company with a great location to advance the startup.

Arlington is perfect for a tech startup, Barrientos said, and he can see Arlington becoming the next tech hub. One thing that helps is the caliber of people the county attracts with Washington, D.C. being so close.

“The area tends to attract a lot of ambitious people,” Barrientos said.

Among these people are millennials and those only a couple of years out of college. The strong workforce from Arlington and D.C. is necessary to help startups like Brazen expand.

“The startup culture, the startup ecosystem comes from the energy of that [workforce],” Healy said.

Brazen, formerly known as Brazen Careerist, is rapidly expanding and is hiring. The company is looking for people for sales, account management, job development and customer success and plans to go from 25 to 40 employees in the upcoming months, he said.

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by Heather Mongilio — July 6, 2015 at 12:30 pm 626 0

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Editor’s Note: Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

(Updated at 5:45 p.m.) When Pentagon City resident Phil Gattone was four years old, he had his first seizure.

Then another one and another until it resulted in thousands of seizures, two brain surgeries and a diagnosis: epilepsy.

“No one really understood what I was going through except my parents, friends and family,” Gattone said.

Phil-Gattone

Gattone said he was able to overcome epilepsy and live a normal life thanks to his support system, but for many with the disease, the lack of the support system can be damaging.

But Gattone may have a solution for those with epilepsy struggling without a support system. It’s an app called Neurish.

Gattone, the CEO and co-founder of Neurish, and his team are working to create an app that connects people with epilepsy with doctors but more importantly, to other people with epilepsy. The app is still in development, but Gattone said he hopes to have it out by the end of 2015.

“It’s a social network for people with epilespy,” Gattone said of the app. “We provide a map for all the epilepsy resources around you.”

Along with Gattone, the Neurish team includes lead designer Elisha Phoenix and three mobile developers: Nick Cowat, William Judd and Ross Chapman. The team met at a hackathon last April, where they were faced with the task of creating something to help people with epilepsy. After the hackathon, they took their idea to Neurolaunch, an accelerator program for startups dealing with neuroscience. The company has been on a fast track and has entered development, Gattone said.

One of the key features of the app is the mentorship program. People who are struggling to live a normal life with epilepsy will be connected with someone who is leading a normal life.

“By providing the mentorship program, we’re turning the mood [around epilepsy] from a negative one to a positive one,” Gattone said.

One of the biggest barriers to building a support system is that people with epilepsy often don’t want to talk about it.

“When you’re diagnosed with epilepsy, it’s hard to build a support system,” Gattone said. “One of the reason is there is still a lot of stigma with it.”

People don’t always know how to help when someone has a seizure, and talking about having the disease can lead to consequences, Gattone said. Some people won’t hire those with epilepsy and having a seizure can mean not being able to drive. In Virginia, residents with seizures have to show they have been seizure free for six months in order to have a license.

neurish logo

“There’s a lot of fear with talking about it,” Gattone said. “And if you don’t talk about it, it’s hard to build a support system.”

The app will also allow people to find nearby neurologists and epileptologists, neurologists that specialize in epilepsy, to help them find new doctors. The company is currently reaching out to doctors to ask them to publicize the app and to be featured on it.

Gattone and his team want to be able to provide a list or map of doctors, he said. However, with the app still in development, he is not sure the exact format.

The goal of the app is to connect people with the doctors and others with epilepsy so they can lead better lives, Gattone said. It’s unique because it addresses the social concerns of epilepsy instead of focusing only on the medical problems that come from the disorder.

“Our mission is just to improve the lives of people with epilepsy,” Gattone said.

Photo and logo courtesy of Phil Gattone

by Heather Mongilio — June 29, 2015 at 11:30 am 661 0

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Editor’s Note: Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

Arlington County might have a tech-driven answer for commuters looking to save money and help the environment.

Arlington County Commuter Services (ACCS) and D.C.-based tech firm Conveyal have developed CarFreeAtoZ, a new website that help commuters plan their trip to areas around Northern Virginia and the D.C. area by looking at the different transit options available including Metro, buses, driving, Capital Bikeshare and personal cycling.

CarFreeAtoZ screen shot“Arlington is really thought of as the leader in public transportation in the country,” said Paul Mackie, the communications director at Mobility Lab, the research arm of ACCS.

CarFreeAtoZ plans trips in a manner similar to Google Maps or Mapquest, but it combines different transit options, such as walking, using the Metro and biking. The website is mobile friendly, so users can pull it up on their phones while on the go.

“It’s got more modes than any brand of app,” Mackie said.

Users plug in their current location’s address, the address of where they want to go and the time they’re planning to leave, and then the website calculates the different travel methods. At the moment, the users need to have the exact address as the website cannot find places such as the U.S. Capitol or a specific Metro station.

Commuters can sort the different travel methods by total time, total cost, calories and walking distance. They can also see the cumulative estimated benefits of making the trip via a non-car method on a yearly basis.

For instance, CarFreeAtoZ recommends biking from Fairlington to Rosslyn, estimating that it would save $3,242 plus result in 21 lbs of potential weight loss and a gain of 138 hours of “productive time.” The bike trip takes 36 minutes during the morning rush hour, compared to 18 minutes via car or 43 minutes via transit.

“It actually ranks what would be best for you,” Mackie said.

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by Heather Mongilio — June 22, 2015 at 12:45 pm 936 0

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Editor’s Note: Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

Snagajob motto and new "snagger"Arlington residents looking for a new job need to look no further than down the street or at their phones.

Snagajob, a national business that helps connect hourly workers with employers, recently opened up an Arlington location at 1110 N. Glebe Road.

The company is all technology-based. Job seekers can go to snagajob.com or download the Snagajob app available on the Apple Store and on Android stores. From there job seekers, can browse jobs based on location, position, time commitment and more.

And while the Richmond-based, venture-funded company is all online, opening up a new Arlington location allowed to company to reach the workforce pool in the area as well as more employers, said Viyas Sundaram, the senior vice president of sales for the company.

“It really was a connector for us for a pool that expands from Leesburg, Richmond to Baltimore,” Sundaram said.

The company has been in Arlington since last August, he said, but is planning an official opening on July 22. At the opening, the company will be sharing stories of people who have found jobs through Snagajob and celebrating the employers that used Snagajob to post job listings.

Snagajob employeesWhile the company is reaching out to employers and job seekers across the country, Sundaram said Arlington residents are using the service. The biggest employers in Arlington posting openings are Macy’s, Chipotle, Jimmy Johns, Wendys and “any franchise you can imagine,” he said.

Snagajob is also looking for new “snaggers,” the term the company uses for its own employers. Interested candidates have to look no further than the Snagajob website for these openings.

“We are actively looking for good talent and happy to speak to anyone who’s interested,” Sundaram said.

While Snagajob came to Arlington for the location, its office model fits in with the new trend of coworking and work-life balance found in the county.

“We view ourselves as sort of the next generation of the corporate experience,” Sundaram said.

The Snagajob office is large with plenty of open space for employees to move around. Each chair has a bright orange Snagjob jersey on it. The kitchen area is part of the work space with a bar and in the middle of the room is a large flatscreen with a game console and bean bag chairs.

Snagajob kitchen and lounge area

The work-life balance is important to Snagajob, Sundaram said. The company is looking for “someone who’s interested in a fulfilling experience instead of an actual job,” he said.

Part of working for Snagajob is giving back to the community. The company encourages its employees to volunteer by offering paid time off in exchange for hours spent volunteering.

Wellness is also important to the company. Some employees work at standing desks and the company also promotes it through activities like massages.

“We’re very, very focused on that balance of working hard but also taking care of each other,” Sundaram said.

Snagajob standing desk and jerseys

The company strives on its teamwork and competition model, he said.

“The competition and teamwork combined with communication make our team more of a family than a workplace,” Sundaram said.

While the competition is part of the actual work of an employee, it is also heavily featured in team building activities.

Employees all participate in Office Olympics, which includes activities like chair dancing and chair soccer.

“It’s fun,” Sundaram said of working for Snagajob. “That’s probably the word that describes is best.”

by Heather Mongilio — June 15, 2015 at 12:50 pm 478 0

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Editor’s Note: Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

Eastern Foundry, a government contracting incubator, is bringing a Shark Tank-esque competition to Crystal City in hopes of finding creative solutions to help combat post-traumatic stress disorder.

The first Eastern Foundry Cup, a three-day event, begins on June 18 and leads up to a demo day, where 14 companies will present their ideas for a new product or service to help battle PTSD. A panel of three judges will select the two best ideas.

Eastern Foundry background that will be used during competitionEach company will have seven minutes to present and three minutes for a question and answer session with the judges. The event is open to the public and attendees will be able to vote for their favorite service or product.

The idea for the Eastern Foundry Cup came from a desire to brings something innovative to the government, Eastern Foundry Cup Founder Geoff Orazem said. The company quickly settled on PTSD as a topic as it was something that touched the four founders, all of whom are veterans.

While the event is a competition, Orazem said he hopes the 14 companies will work together to blend their ideas on helping PTSD.

“We really wanted to take a holistic view on what the veteran needed,” he said.

PTSD is a multi-dimensional issue, Orazem said. While many people see it as a purely psychological issue, the disorder affects multiple areas of a person’s life, including family life, employment and for veterans, reintroduction to society.

Eastern Foundry staff hold a meeting

Other issues that come with returning from service and PTSD can include anxiety, sleeping problems, drinking problems and family issues, which all start compounding, Orazem said.

“With so many problems people have, it’s treated as a single issue… There are a lot of dimensions that have to be thought of as a total,” he said.

One of the companies uses virtual reality to help those with PTSD overcome panic attacks. Others have services that will speed up or improve therapy veterans receive for PTSD.

While the main event is the competition, the companies will also get to have two days of educational activities. Eastern Foundry is bringing people from the Veterans Affairs and PTSD experts, as well as business experts to help the companies perfect their services and strengthen their companies.

The two days also provide networking opportunities for the competitors to meet each other and people who can help them further their companies.

“You will see a lot of interaction between the [the competitors],” Orazem said.

Eastern Foundry CEO and Founder Geoff OrazemHe also said he hopes there will be interaction among the competitors and the audience members.

“I really hope to see guys who were Vietnam vets, Korea vets, who have been struggling with these ideas [PTSD] for 30-40 years, can come and engage,” Orazem said.

The event is also to help get the smaller companies to connect with larger companies or with the government to help them secure contracts they otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to grab, Orazem said. Looking down the road, he would like to see the competing companies win government or medical contracts in at least six months, he said.

The event is just the first for Eastern Foundry. The company also plans to hold another one next fall. Orazem said he plans to continue to hold these cups, possibly with PTSD as a topic again.

“We’re really excited about this becoming a recurring event,” he said.

by Heather Mongilio — June 8, 2015 at 1:45 pm 1,585 0

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Editor’s Note: Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces and a stage for formal presentations.

The burgeoning coworking trend in Arlington commercial real estate has a new wrinkle: child care.

CoWork CoPlay launched last month, founded by the owner of Saffron Dance, adjacent to her belly-dancing studio at 3260 Wilson Blvd in Clarendon. The venture combines flexible coworking office space with an on-demand babysitting service, where parents can leave their children for up to four hours and hold business meetings, get work done or run errands.

CoWork interior shot (courtesy CoWork CoPlay)“While parents are not required to bring their kids while they are coworking and customers don’t have to be a parent to cowork, the close proximity of on premises childcare responds to one of the most common challenges facing families in today’s society — affordable childcare,” the company said.

CoWork CoPlay operates as a coworking space from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Childcare is also available during those times, except on Wednesday mornings. Childcare is available for two hour slots (8-10 a.m., 10 a.m. to noon, 1-3 p.m. and 3-5 p.m.) and parents can sign their children up for two time periods per day. On Wednesdays, childcare is available from 1-5 p.m.

“What parents really need are expansive options throughout the week to get work done and the flexibility to leave the premises while their children are safely playing and learning,” said founder Rachael Galoob-Ortega, who also goes by stage name “Saphira.”

CoWork CoPlay offers four pricing packages, which includes pricing for each space or using both. Parents can reserve the spaces online, but childcare reservations must be made 12 hours in advance.

CoWork interior shot (courtesy CoWork CoPlay)Up to 20 working parents at a time can work in the 1,000 square foot space that makes up the coworking area. It’s equipped with WiFi and patrons are given headphones with microphones to allow for Google chats and Skype meetings. There is also a telephone room for calls.

“It definitely doesn’t have a corporate feel,” Galoob-Ortega said. “It has a more organic feel because we designed it.”

Parents can leave their children in an adjacent room where P&E Babysitting, a local company, watches the kids. The room can accommodate 12 children, from 18 months to six years old. Parents can leave children for up to four hours while they take meetings outside of the building or run errands, provided the children are potty trained and at least two years old.

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by Ethan Rothstein — June 1, 2015 at 12:00 pm 611 0

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Editor’s Note: Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

Luvozo co-founders David Pietrocola, left, and Jude KesslerSenior care is an issue in this country that only figures to grow more serious over time. By 2050, the number of Americans older than 65 will double, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, to a total in excess of 83 million people.

One Crystal City has a solution that could help the country — and its seniors — as resources strain to accommodate the Baby Boom generation: robots.

David Pietrocola and Jude Kessler have founded Luvozo, which is developing a robot concierge service that can cater to the needs of the elderly and relieve the burden on staff members at assisted living and skilled nursing facilities.

Luvozo at Techshop in Crystal City“The idea came from taking care of a our grandparents, and what a struggle it has been for our parents,” Kessler. “We wanted to look into tech solutions to fix that.”

The pair each graduated from Trinity College in Connecticut at different times, and were connected by a mutual friend in 2013 when both were working in research and development for the Department of Defense. Both had an interest in robotics and a passion for helping the elderly. Within months, they founded the company together.

About six months ago, both left their government jobs to work at Luvozo full-time, with a mission: develop a prototype for a robotic concierge service, one that can fill the non-medical needs of the elderly while allowing care facility staff to focus on their medical needs.

Luvozo at Techshop in Crystal City“We take for granted what we can do with computers and smartphones,” Pietrocola said. “A lot of the residents at these facilities don’t know how to use those devices. So our platform gives them a portal to videochat with their loved ones, read the news and be informed about activities throughout the day.”

It’s taken the pair and one part-time staffer six months to build the prototype for their SAM platform — semi-autonomous mobot, it stands for — and they will begin testing next month at a 100-bed facility in D.C.

Pietrocola first started dabbling in robotics when he was at college, and since he’s been here, he founded the D.C. Robotics Meetup group (he stepped down as lead organizer earlier this month). Now, it’s a career, and it’s been made possible by TechShop in Crystal City and LiftOff Health, the incubator just a few blocks away.

Using tools like the 3-D printer, laser cutter and software platforms designed for prototyping. Luvozo has been able to keep overhead costs low and stay bootstrapped to this point. The founders’ lean startup also allowed them to do years of market research, interview facility administrators, staff and residents.

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by Ethan Rothstein — May 18, 2015 at 12:00 pm 1,451 0

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Editor’s Note: Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

AthlightsArlington is one of the healthiest and safest urban municipalities in the country, and one Ballston-based company is trying to help make it healthier and safer.

AthLights, founded by Daniel Staples, sells compact, lightweight LED lights that, paired with a rare earth magnets, give runners, walkers and cyclists a way to warn drivers of their presence when they’re out in the dark.

“This is for somebody who’s maybe on the fence about buying a light and they don’t want a big stupid headlamp,” Staples told ARLnow.com last week. The LED lights flash and alternate red and blue colors, creating a dazzle effect visible from 600 feet. “It’s designed to wake up you at a relatively close range. By not going for that mile-long visibility, we can reduce the package size. If it’s too big, it’s not safe because people don’t want to wear it.”

Athlights sells their product online for $9.99 in sets of two lights, with batteries included. Staples is a mechanical engineer who works for the Department of Defense in Alexandria, and he came up with the idea in 2012 while having a conversation with a friend who ran ultramarathons.

“He was complaining about some of the equipment designed for runners tends to rub and chafe and bother you after long distances,” Staples said. “One of them was lighting; all the lights were big, bulky clip-ons. Took a trip to RadioShack and put together a little prototype in my garage and realized it might work.”

In April 2013, he and cofounder Anthony Del Porto incorporated, designed a marketable prototype and found a manufacturer in China. They set up a website with an option to purchase directly that October, and they were off and running.

Athlights founder Daniel StaplesThe two former Virginia Tech classmates brought in a third partner, who put some of his own money into the company and, after having founded a few companies of his own, some entrepreneurial experience. They went to a running trade show and sold out of all their materials.

In 2014, they increased their sales tenfold over their first year, and Staples said there’s no reason to believe they can’t repeat that in 2015.

“We got that type of initial growth with essentially no outside support. We showed up at a trade show, made a few phone calls,” he said. “Now we’ve got people in two different countries, a distributor, sales teams in Texas and California, so with those guys on our team, I would not be surprised if it sold 10 times more.”

Athlights have partners lined up in the United Kingdom and Australia, and just signed a deal with Summit Distributors, which counts 8,000 independent sporting goods store among its clients. Staples also just signed a deal for a retailer with about 400 stores nationwide, although he can’t disclose the partner yet.

For an engineer with no business experience, the entrepreneur path didn’t come naturally to him, and he didn’t fully know what he was doing when he started, he admits. But, despite a few hiccups last year, he said he’s reaffirmed by everyone he talks to who says Athlights is a great idea, and they wish they had thought of it themselves.

(more…)

by Ethan Rothstein — May 11, 2015 at 12:45 pm 431 0

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Editor’s Note: Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

The Stone Security Engineering team(Updated Tuesday, 9:45 p.m.) Twenty years ago, Hollice Stone watched the Oklahoma City bombing unfold on television, emergency workers crawling through blocks of wreckage, picking out survivors or victims, and she felt an urge to do something.

She later volunteered with the same company that helped with the search and rescue missions in Oklahoma. That experience led her to what she feels is her true calling: preventing a tragedy like the bombing — which killed 168 people and wounded 680 others — from happening again.

Now, Stone is founder and CEO of Stone Security Engineering, which helps design explosion-proofing for buildings, coordinates security for existing buildings and consults with governments to ensure buildings affected by terrorist attacks are as safe as possible.

“It was something that was really needed, and I could make a difference,” Stone told ARLnow.com last week. “I really feel like we have made a difference. That’s why we do what we do.”

Stone Security contracts with the U.S. government, foreign governments, non-governmental organizations and private companies to design protections for buildings, military bases and chemical plants. Stone personally has been on dozens of trips to the Middle East, including Yemen, Iraq and Afghanistan. She founded her company in 2008 because her previous blast-protection engineering firm wasn’t going where the need was greatest.

Stone Security Engingeering Associate Principal/Vice President and Director of DC Operations Khaled El-Domiaty“I wanted to do more in high-risk and high-threat environments,” she said. “The need is so much greater there, and the budgets are tighter.”

For some buildings, that could mean creating barriers far from the structure to prevent ground attacks. For others, it could be hardening of the structure itself. Each case is unique, and for a company that does so much of its work in the most dangerous areas in the world, there are innumerable challenges.

That’s why Stone herself goes to many of the foreign countries, preferring to keep her six full-time employees — four of whom are in Crystal City’s Eastern Foundry — out of harm’s way. But there are more than just security concerns when protecting buildings in war-torn countries.

“There you don’t have access to all the materials you do here,” Arturo Montalva, an associate principal and vice president with Stone, said. “You need creative alternatives. Sometimes you’re working with cables and clips.”

Domestically, Stone has contracts with the Government Services Administration to coordinate the design of government buildings, and has worked with private companies to ensure security of their headquarters. While the market has long been around for protecting buildings from attack, Stone said her company is still well-positioned as more and more entities acknowledge the need to make their buildings safer.

“The number of agencies, organizations and governments looking to provide protection is growing,” Stone said.

“There’s more awareness of safety and security requirements and more awareness of providing safer environments,” added Khaled El-Domiaty, associate principal/vice president and director of D.C. operations.

Stone Security Engingeering Associate Principal/Vice President and Director of DC Operations Khaled El-Domiaty gives a training seminarStone also provides training seminars to educate about building safety, is investing in research into new techniques and materials. The market for blast-proofing is only growing in both the government sector and, particularly, with high-rise buildings in urban environments.

If one of the buildings that Stone has worked on is attacked, it’s more likely to withstand and explosion and stay upright, limiting the damage and casualties. With those protections in place in dozens of buildings around the world, it’s not a stretch to say the company has made thousands of people safer.

“Sometimes my husband makes me take a step back and realize what we’re doing here,” Stone said with a smile. “We’ve made a difference, and it’s been very satisfying.”

by Ethan Rothstein — May 4, 2015 at 12:30 pm 553 0

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Editor’s Note: Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

ByteCubed founder/CEO Ahmad IshaqAhmad Ishaq immigrated to the United States when he was little, fleeing Afghanistan with his parents for political asylum from the Soviet Union. He grew up in Southern California, developed an American accent and a laid-back, West Coast disposition.

Now, he’s leading one of Arlington’s fastest growing companies, going from five employees just a few years ago to close to 100 by the end of 2015. Ishaq is the founder and CEO of ByteCubed, a government contractor and consulting business focused on ensuring the best decisions possible for its clients.

“I came from a very poor family, lived a really modest lifestyle,” he said from ByteCubed’s space in Carr Workplaces in Clarendon. “That helped mold me into being very driven. I’ve always been thinking what I can do bigger.”

Ishaq moved the area for an internship with the Defense Intelligence Agency. That internship turned into a full-time job, where he continued to push up the ladder. He left the government to work as a director at Mantech International, but after a year there he struck out on his own.

“I wanted to solve the Big Data problem,” he said. “I wanted to figure out how to take information out of classified documents, analyze it and feed it back to the government so they can make better decisions.”

In 2010, he started to “build the infrastructure” of his fledgling company, holding off on growth while he did so. He took a subcontract with the Computer Sciences Corporation for data analytics. That contract allowed him to hire a handful of employees and get ready to land the big deal.

ByteCubed's offices in Clarendon's Carr WorkplacesIn 2014, after years of working on his proposal, Ishaq secured a $325 million contract with Department of Defense in October. Since then, he’s hired 30 people and plans to hire as many as 50 by the time the year is over. ByteCubed is already the biggest tenant in Carr Workplaces, occupying several different offices in the coworking space.

Soon, they will move to Crystal City, after Ishaq was personally courted by Vornado/Charles E. Smith President Mitchell Schear. Their new, 6,000-square-foot space is along Crystal Drive, and ByteCubed will have plenty of opportunities to grow.

Other than the $325 million contract, ByteCubed also works with a handful of private companies. He also secured the contract to help administer $1 billion a year through the DoD’s Small Business Innovation Research fund, which gives grants to private companies to develop new technologies.

“We’re helping the government make better, smarter purchases by aggregating the data and automating the processes,” he said.

It’s a simple enough concept, but one the government has had problems with in the past. That’s a big issue, Ishaq said, considering the government spends as much as $70 billion a year for research and development.

“A lot of times, people get a problem, come up with a quick, fast solution and it ends up being terrible,” he said. “Our solution is addressing the bigger problem of the government looking for a quick fix.”

ByteCubed's offices in Clarendon's Carr WorkplacesByteCubed is chasing 10 different government contracts that will be awarded over the next 12 months. If the company lands just one of them, “we will double in size,” Ishaq said. Those contracts will all focus on the niche Ishaq has targeted for his company: “increasing innovation or reducing inefficiencies.”

That, he said, is the way he’s found to give back to the country that gave his family a safe place to live when he was a boy.

“A lot of people in similar situations appreciate the fact that we were given a second chance, and feel very invested in giving something back,” he said. “It’s why I’ve always been focused on solving government needs and problems.”

by Ethan Rothstein — April 27, 2015 at 12:00 pm 572 0

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Editor’s Note: Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

The Worden Tech Solutions teamChristopher Worden had wanted to be a member of the U.S. Marine Corps since he was 4 years old.

Five years into his service, during a training run, he twisted his ankle and his foot jammed into train tracks. Worden stubbornly — he was a Marine, after all — kept running and training on the injury, while his leg became more and more damaged. His bone plate grew in the wrong direction, and overcompensating for the injury caused him to blow out his knee and two discs in his back.

By the late 1990s, he was medically discharged from the Marines after having served Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton at the White House. Almost two decades later, Worden now finds himself more connected to the Department of Defense than he has been since wearing his dress blues.

Worden is the owner of Worden Technology Solutions, a government contractor that specializes in streamlining information technology services, cybersecurity and professional services. WTS has found a niche, Worden said, in the way it completes its tasks.

“We use technology as a tool to accomplish missions, not as a solution,” Worden says. “I do a lot of homework, try to identify where [the client’s] pitfalls and problems have been. I say ‘here’s what the problems are and here’s what we can fix.'”

It’s simple, unoriginal concept, but it has resonated with multiple DoD clients, and has continued to win Worden contracts. Considering WTS is a service-disabled, veteran-owned small business, he’s in a strong position for government contracts that are legally mandated to involve “set-aside companies” like his.

Worden Tech Solution's office at Eastern Foundry in Crystal CityWorden got his first contract in 2009 as a one-man business with the Navy. In 2011, he was able to officially incorporate and launch his company, hire employees and work for more contracts. That includes winning an 18-month-long slog for a Navy Space and Warfare Systems Command contract.

“That kind of process is enough to make a lot of people go ‘I’m done,'” Worden said. “But that’s why I was able to win, because I was too stubborn to quit. I would not give up.”

Worden’s success has led to other agencies inquiring into his company’s services. WTS has been a subcontractor for huge businesses like Northrop Grumman, trying to meet their set-aside requirements. And the company’s office in Crystal City’s Eastern Foundry incubator has helped with all of it.

“With 40 companies here, you can hit all the set-asides,” Worden said. “Plus the location is absolutely the best, plus you have the potential to meet other companies. As a small business, you tend to work on your own and you become bitter. This is about taking advantage of something that’s in front of you.”

Still, there’s one client Worden hasn’t worked for yet, one he’s had on his mind since he was 4 years old. The same one he said he used to chase recruiters when he was 14 he wanted to serve so badly: The Marines. Despite his confidence, the meticulous Worden wants every possible duck in a row before he goes for his dream job a second time around.

“I don’t want to stumble on myself walking into the Marine Corps,” Worden says with a sheepish grin. On the days where his leg injury hurts too much, he has to use a can. Speaking with ARLnow.com last week, he barely walked with any limp at all. “I want to be sharp. But we are getting ready to talk soon.”

by Ethan Rothstein — April 20, 2015 at 3:45 pm 1,121 0

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Editor’s Note: Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

Mindcubed founder and CEO Habib Nasibdar, right, and CTO Prasad IndlaHabib Nasibdar immigrated to the U.S. from India to attend George Washington University business school just after Sept. 11, 2001, and now he’s the founder and CEO of a startup he feels is making his adopted country a better place.

He is the founder of Mindcubed, a data analytics company serving public safety agencies, based in Ballston. Mindcubed provides a platform for police departments, court systems and correctional facilities to look at all their data, analyze it easily, ensure it’s accurate and usable, and predict outcomes for potential decisions.

In a time where political pressure on public safety departments has seemingly never been higher, Mindcubed services are in high demand.

“There is a political alignment happening and more and more talking about how we understand criminal justice data,” Nasibdar told ARLnow.com from its shared workspace at Metro Offices in Ballston. “We really are helping criminal justice agencies and public safety departments understand their data for precise decision-making.”

Four states have entered into pilot programs with Mindcubed, and Nasibdar expects to sign contracts within six months on multiple deals for the service. Mindcubed’s first client, when the company launched in late 2012, was the District of Columbia’s sentencing commission, which hired Nasibdar to help it analyze why so many young people were being incarcerated for nonviolent crimes.

Mindcubed logoNasibdar got his start combining data and public safety in 2005, when he was working for a small government contractor and won a contract with D.C. to build an information-sharing infrastructure among its public safety departments, a key recommendation to localities in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks.

An engineer by trade, it was that first contract that gave him the bug to improve public safety. As an Indian immigrant, he said it gave him a way to serve.

“I always felt I never got an opportunity to serve this country and I felt this is a way to help my adopted country,” he said. “This is my way of serving. There’s no better way to feed my kid and my family than to do what I’m doing.”

Because Mindcubed serves government clients, it typically takes 18 months from first contact to secure a deal on a contract. But, he says, patience is a virture. He didn’t bootstrap his company to make a quick buck and move on.

A screenshot of Mindcubed's Grid platform“We are not 25-year-olds in shorts writing on a whiteboard,” he said. “Our approach is very methodical. We’re persistent in the area we know we are successful. This market is just developing, and we see so much opportunity in this domain.”

The platform allows, for instance, a police department to answer questions of policy makers about how many marijuana arrests were made in the jurisdiction, then to break the statistics down into how many of those were under the age of 25, and how many of the under-25-year-olds arrested for marijuana crimes were suffering from mental illnesses. All of the data in their system is cross-checked for accuracy and compliance.

“Agencies right now cannot answer in real time all these permutations and combinations,” he said. “All of these questions lead to more questions. We provide analytics, compliance and prediction, and combine them to make it extremely easy to use. Present that to bureaucracies, and that’s like magic to them.”

by Ethan Rothstein — April 13, 2015 at 1:45 pm 446 0

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Editor’s Note: Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

The MoDev UX conference, held at Artisphere last year (photo courtesy MoDev)An Arlington startup focused on software developers for mobile platforms was born when the iPhone 2 was the newest smartphone on the market and Blackberry devices were everywhere.

MoDev started back in January 2009 not as a company, but as a Meetup group of a dozen mobile developers in Piola in Rosslyn. The idea was to start a community for developers building mobile application, a vacuum in the D.C. area at the time, MoDev founder Pete Erickson said. The aim was to generate conversation and collaboration among developers in the “new ecosystem.”

“I didn’t plan to run it as a business, it just kind of happened.,” Erickson said. “After doing it for about a year, we had over 1,000 members and people started bringing us money because they were looking for developers and wanted to sponsor our group.”

The first sponsorship was a $50-per-month agreement with Blackberry, and the others started to roll in. Erickson was consulting and launching another startup, Disruptathon, but by 2011, it became clear that MoDev was poised for big enough things for him to jump on full-time and steer the ship.

In December 2011, MoDev organized its first conference, a 350-person affair at Gannett in Tysons Corner. Since then, the company has curated almost 40 conferences around the world with tens of thousands of combined attendees. Several have been at Artisphere in Rosslyn, which is why Erickson is leading the charge to save the arts venue from extinction.

The conferences have ranged from mobile development to wearable technology to exponential growth, the key theme of MoDev’s future, Erickson said, as well as the entire startup industry’s.

MoDev founder Pete Erickson (photo by Paco Alacid)“We’re watching a whole bunch of industries transform in a number of years,” Erickson said, citing Uber, AirBnB and Waze as exponential-growth startups that have had groundbreaking impacts on their respective industries. “The opportunity to manage products in an exponential world is vastly different and exciting. It’s actually very daunting, and we think the whole skill and method of developing exponential products is so different, there needs to be a conference that addresses it.”

That idea — having a need for conversation and collaboration surrounding an issue — has always been the impetus for MoDev.

Erickson said the mobile development community in D.C. had to come together when he started MoDev, which has been bootstrapped from the beginning, because that’s the only environment in which true innovation can flourish.

“You want to bring people together as often as possible, because that’s when ideas get born,” Erickson said. “It’s always rewarding for me to hear the testimonials of people who have gone on to build great apps together, be successful together, or even just try together.”

Among the companies that have benefitted from MoDev’s services are local startup success stories LivingSocial and WeddingWire. Other MoDev community members including Rosslyn-based TMSoft Founder Todd Moore and Reston-based app development company SavvyApps.

The MoDev UX conference, held at Artisphere last yearIn addition to organizing their own conferences around the world — including through a chapter in Hong Kong — MoDev also organizes conferences and events for others. Clients include Google, Amazon Samsung, Microsoft and Capital One, which is sponsoring MoDev’s Minimum Viable Product conference, coming to Artisphere next month.

“We’ve watched some of the largest companies in the world use MoDev to reposition themselves,” Erickson said. “We’ve got an impressive roster of companies we’ve worked with to help them build their development.”

More than just conferences, MoDev also helps these companies strategize about their mobile development goals, and what they need to become successful in the changing landscape.

Erickson has called himself a “visionary,” and he’s constantly thinking forward. He operates MoDev and his team from his home office in Arlington, and they don’t even use email anymore.

“We live in an exponential time, and we’ve shifted our company from linear to exponential,” he said. “Understand all that and knowing how important it is to be successful today, we’re going to inject this exponential conversation into everything we do.”

Photos top and bottom courtesy MoDev. Photo, middle, by Paco Alacid

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